The Letcher County Central Cougars, coming off their second straight win, will play their first home game of the season this Friday night when they host the Union High School Bears.
Union High opened in 2011 after the consolidation of high schools in the Virginia towns of Appalachia and Big Stone Gap, where the new school is located. The Bears improved to 2-0 last Friday with a 26-3 win over visiting Richlands in a game that saw run-oriented Union score all of its points in the fourth quarter.
Letcher Central improved its season record to 2-1 last Friday with a 40-36 win over host Estill County. Both teams’ offenses exploded in the second half in an exciting game where LCC scored the winning points with less than a minute left in the contest. Hunter Campbell had a season high 314 yards rushing and LCC’s offensive line dominated the game as the Cougars had 506 yards rushing as a team.
Both teams began the game with three-and-outs before an Estill County punt was returned by Sam Little to the Engineers’ 43-yard line. On the second play of the drive, Hayden Brashear took the handoff on a fullback dive play and ran 37 yards for the touchdown. The extra point was no good but the Cougars had a 6-0 lead.
Estill County drove the ball deep into LCC territory but eventually turned the ball over on downs. After back-to-back punts, Brashear gained 17 yards on a third-and-one play, followed by a 70-yard run up the middle by Campbell. On the next play, Brashear carried the ball into the end zone from two yards away. The Cougars held a 12-0 lead after the two-point conversion attempt failed.
The Engineers answered with a 10-play scoring drive of their own, capped off by a two-yard touchdown run by Jonothon Short. The extra point sailed through the uprights to cut the LCC lead to 12-7. After that, neither offense could move the ball in a first half dominated by defense.
The defensive battle ended in the second half when LCC’s Campbell broke three tackles and sprinted away from Estill County defenders on his way to an incredible 90-yard touchdown run that increased the Cougars’ lead to 18-7.
The Engineers cut the lead to 18-15 in the middle of the third quarter after they were able to down a punt at LCC’s two-yard line. After a Cougar fumble, Engineer quarterback Ty Niece found receiver Micah Swim for a 13-yard touchdown pass followed by a successful two-point conversion.
Campbell returned the kickoff into Estill County territory after which Zach Hensley took an endaround handoff for a 28-yard gain down to the Engineers’ nine-yard line. On third-and-goal the ball was fumbled into the end zone and Estill County recovered it for a touchback. That mistake resulted in Estill County taking its first lead of the game, 22-18. The Engineers converted on a fourth-down pass play to Swim that led to a 24-yard rushing touchdown by Short. The extra point was also good.
The Cougars answered quickly on a 55-yard rushing touchdown by Campbell on a perfectly blocked counter play. Brashear ran in the two-point conversion to give LCC a 26-22 lead, but the action didn’t stop there. Estill County’s Short scored a touchdown on a 29-yard run and the shootout was on, with the score now 28-26 after the Engineers’ two-point attempt failed.
The Cougars roared back to take a 32-18 lead after Campbell scampered up the middle for a 50-yard touchdown run. After the conversion attempt failed and the Engineers took possession after the kickoff, Niece kept the ball for the first time on a quarterback keeper and went around the right side for 80-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion was successful and Estill County held a 36-32 lead late in the fourth quarter.
With the Cougars now in possession of the football, Brashear had an important 12-yard gain on a dive play on third-and-five. Later, on fourth-and-one, LCC quarterback Carson Adams gained three yards on a sneak before Brashear was able to drag two defenders on his back for a 22-yard gain to the Estill three-yard line. After a fumble that LCC recovered on first down, Adams scored from two yards out. The conversion was good and LCC held a 40-36 lead.
On the next series, Koby Barnette intercepted a Niece pass to preserve the victory for LCC. It was the team’s second straight gutsy win.
Hunter Campbell gained 314 yards rushing on 17 carries. He had three touchdowns. Hayden Brashear was a perfect complement, gaining 134 yards on 15 carries and two scores. Carson Adams gained 34 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown.
Jackson Meade led the LCC defense in tackles with eight. Jepatha Griffith and Jayson Buttrey each had seven tackles. Sam Mullins added six tackles and Jonah Little recorded the only sack for the LCC defense. Koby Barnette came away with the all-important interception to seal the game.
This Friday’s game against Union will kick off at 7:30 p.m. at Cougar Field.